Decision makers: What they need and what you can do to help

Posted 2016-12-14 09:00

What conditions need to be met before someone will convert?  If we can understand the stages of the decision-making process, we can build up to the close. We can guide decision makers to the right decision for them, and serve them, not sell to them. In this post, we’ll look at the stages of the decision-making process, and what buyers need at each stage.

Five Step Decision Making Process Diagram

The Decision Making Process

An accepted model of decision making defines Five stages people go through in the process of making purchase decisions.

  1. Need recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Make purchase
  5. Post-purchase evaluation

Decision makers come to the point of conversion through a blend of experiences during these stages. You can influence their experience in all stages. They will come across your resources and application as they first recognize their need, seek information, and evaluate alternatives until they reach the point of making a purchase. And even then, you can support them in their post-purchase evaluation.

What resources you provide for them can help guide decision makers through the process, and light the path for them.  The blend of communication tools you use will include webinars, friend to friend recommendations, online searches, your free trial, and many other options.

Stage 1: Need recognition - Identify the need

It all starts with a particular need and a problem to solve. A decision maker may not fully understand their problem, nor understand know how to solve it. During this stage, they seek expertise.

If they are lucky to find your product or service, they will be looking for clear indications that you do understand their problem well. And they will be looking for signs that you know you can solve it. Through this experience, they recognize they have a need, and that there is a solution out there.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Provide evidence that you understand the problem. What are their pain points?
  • Demonstrate this in your content such as blog posts, knowledge base, and support resources.
  • Provide evidence that you have solved the problem.
  • Use Customer stories, case studies, quotes, and social proof.

Stage 2: Information search - The Paradox of Choice.

In the next stage, they seek to find as much information as possible or required to make a decision confidently.

The array of options available now means that any decision maker is now met with a challenge. As Barry Schwartz describes in The Paradox of Choice more options have led to people feeling paralyzed and unsatisfied with the decisions they do make.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Make your product information transparent and easy to access.
  • It should be easy for decision makers to discover pricing, feature, and service information.

Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives - The value outweighs the cost.

Finally, they must determine if the benefit they get is worth more than the cost they would pay.

They will look for competitors to compare within a specific service range. You’re probably most aware of your direct competitors with a similar service set. Decision Makers will also be comparing alternative solutions which aren’t direct competitors but solve the same problem in a different way.

The Jobs-to-be-done theory puts the users' problems at the center. This can help reveal other true competitors. If you’re selling carpet cleaners, you may think your main competitor is another carpet cleaner, but it might be a wooden floor instead. Relating it back to software, decision makers may be considering doing it all in-house or kludging something together. Or they may be considering not taking any action at all.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Make the value of your product or service clear.
  • Help users identify the cost versus value for them.
  • Demonstrate that you know what the alternatives are, and their costs.
  • Compare your product or service against not only competitors but other services which meet their requirements in different ways.

Stage 4. Make the purchase - Understand the costs, finding the right fit.

By this stage, they are ready to make the purchase. At this point, all of their requirements have been met.

They confirmed the demonstrated values and benefits. The A-HA moment. They know the benefit would outweigh the cost. They receive the offer and choose the best.

They know there will be a cost, and they will be willing to pay. They have reviewed the offers available and compared. They may begin a negotiation process, but nothing is certain until they close and convert.  

What you can do at this stage:

  • The sales process has to be smooth.
  • Reiterate the value.

Stage 5: Post-purchase evaluation - Retention

Now your customers move into the Retention phase of the customer lifecycle. In the early stages, they begin to understand how to use the product-service mix to realize the value. They implement it. And hopefully, they reap the benefits. You must continually work to remind them of that. You can help them use your product or service to ensure they reap the benefits.

Consider how you are communicating the continuing value to your potential customers. As customers, they will continue to reconfirm the value of the product throughout their experience of using the process.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Guide customers towards success.
  • Lead first-time users to the highest impact features.
  • Make onboarding smooth and fast.

Learn more

In the trial period, you have a unique opportunity to help the decision maker realize the value of your product or service.

What is your role during all stages of the decision-making process? We’ll look at that in our next post.

Sign up to our Six-week Accelerator Programme to convert your free trial users into paying customers.

Join our 6-week Accelerator Programme

Join us, and each week you’ll receive guidance and a simple task to complete. We’ll look at the decision making process and your role in it. You’ll have a clear action to take each week. Every step will bring your free trial users closer to conversion.
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